Olympic dreams for elite gymnast

Mosman artistic gymnast Nichola Panos won a gold medal at nationals this year.

Flipping fantastic Nichola Panos leapt, twisted and somersaulted her way to a gold medal as part of the winning NSW International Level 10 team in the 2017 Australian Gymnastic Championships.

The Mosman resident, 11, is this week’s Local Sports Stars nominee.

Nichola, nominated in the Junior Sports Star category, is an elite gymnast at Manly Warringah Gymnastics Club.

She trains 26 hours a week and is now working on her Junior International optional routines after nationals in Melbourne last month.

The NSW team won the national title by more than five points; no mean feat in the sport of artistic gymnastics where winners and losers can be decided by hundredths of a point.

Individually, Nichola placed 10th nationally in the All-Around event and achieved top 10 finishes on three apparatuses, including fifth on floor.

She placed fifth in the All-Around in the NSW Senior State Championships in April.

Nichola started artistic gymnastics when she was 3 years old “because it just looked like fun”and was talent-spotted to the competitive stream when she was about 5.

“I just wanted to learn how to do a flip — that’s all I wanted to do,” she said.

“I like gymnastics because it’s a challenging sport and it’s amazing to do all these skills.

“I’ve made so many close friends and travelled to so many places; a few years ago I went to a gymnastics camp in America.

“I love the sport and the friends I’ve made, they help keep me motivated.”

Nichola’s favourite apparatus is floor.

“I love the feeling of tumbling and I like learning new tumbling skills,” she said.

“I would probably want to do a double twist in the future; I’m pretty close to one.”

Gymnast Nichola Panos at Balmoral. Picture: Adam Yip

Nichola said the sport was difficult but rewarding.

“The most challenging thing might be when you have to push through a hard skill that you might be nervous or scared about,” she said.

“On beam I have three hard skills in my routine: the back somi, flip flip and side aerial.

“I was just a bit scared learning it and I just pushed through and did it, so now it’s not scary to me.”

Nichola admires current and retired Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman and Lauren Mitchell and dreams of representing Australia.

She has already attended several Gymnastics Australia Team Future camps at the Australian Institute of Sport.

“I would just like to thank Manly Warringah Gymnastics because they have given me so many amazing opportunities,” Nichola said.

Nominate a Local Sports Star online — entry is free — at